Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A gratitude/resentment argument

This argument is inspired by an argument of Kenneth Pearce.

  1. (Premise) It is sometimes appropriate to be grateful for or to the universe or to be resentful for or at the universe.
  2. (Premise) It is only appropriate to be grateful for or to A if A is an agent or an effect of an agent.
  3. (Premise) It is only appropriate to be resentful for or at A if A is an agent or an effect of an agent.
  4. Therefore, the universe is an agent or an effect of an agent.
  5. (Premise) If the universe is an agent or an effect of an agent, naturalism is false.
  6. Therefore, naturalism is false.


Leonhard said...

I dispute the first three premises :P

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think 2 and 3 are pretty clearly right. It's 1 that I think is controversial.

Randy Everist said...

I agree. I think this is a good argument, but the naturalist will here just bite the bullet and say it is irrational to have an ultimate source of being grateful or being resentful. However, I think this actually has strong intuitive appeal. If anything, the theist may complain because we may get panentheism or something, but since the point is the defeat of naturalism, I think it succeeds (given the first premise's intuitive appeal).

James A. Gibson said...

What about premise 5? Why can't the naturalist think something like Spinoza's view is correct? Granted, the naturalist will admit some kind of god, but this god would be identical to the physical world; and it won't be the god of classical theism. Wouldn't that view make 5 come out false, and be consistent with 1-4?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Pantheism isn't naturalistic.

Zachary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zachary said...

Your formulation seems slightly circular(in slipping in that it is appropriate to feel gratitude/resentment) compared to its original by Pearce that we do feel gratitude/resentment. But I do find it very interesting, and would be curious as to why you decided to change that particular point.

That being said I don't know that premise 1 would convince anyone with naturalistic convictions.

-always enjoy your posts imensley.

Leonhard said...

Thanks for red herring Randy ;3

Well I don't see how 2, and 3 would be 'clearly right' (perhaps only to a theologian). I once nearly died when I collided with a wall while riding a quadbike. I didn't die, and I'm very, very, very happy that things turned out like that. If that's being grateful, then those premises are wrong.

I guess you could tighten up the definition of gratitude: Gratitude is a state of being thankful for the outcome of events, expressed toward a person. Then I'll happily accept and call my gratitude something similar but not quite like that: A joyous feeling for the outcome of an uncontrollable event. You could have that sort of naturalistic gratitude towards the universe, whether it was created or not. Then I'd agree that by these new definitions that premise 2 and 3 are clear (by definition), but I still don't see how you'd defend premise 1 without begging the question.

And whether the argument feels intuitive appealing or not isn't interesting. If the argument fails because of dubious premises, then the argument fails. There are lots of arguments that are intuitive appealing and wrong.

Zachary said...

It seems that an appropriate definition of gratitude here might work into it the acknowledgement of being the recipient of some beneficence and resentment of some malice. That would make premises 2 and 3 apparent. This seems to be more the common usage of the word.

Zachary said...

Though I think you do propose a definite difficulty with the argument in its current form, concerning premise 1. That's why I think it would be really interesting to see why he changed it from the original, though neither seem terribly compelling.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Gratitude is not the same as gladness. I can be very glad that someone has done something for me while being quite ungrateful, for instance because I wrongly think they owed it to me.

To make my argument more like Kenneth's, I'd replace 1 with:
1a. Sometimes we are grateful for or to the universe or resentful for or at the universe.
1b. Some of the attitudes in 1a are appropriate.

I think the only really premise that in the end is open to dispute is 1. Gratitude is an attitude of recognition of a certain "debt of gratitude". But a "debt of gratitude" can only be owed to an agent. Resentment is a some sort of blame attitude. But one cannot appropriately blame anything that isn't an agent.

Well, maybe one can be appropriately grateful to or resentful at a dog. But if so, that's only because the dog exhibits enough of the structure of agency for this to be appropriate.

Randy Everist said...

Hi Leonhard--I don't see how intuition is irrelevant to knowing the truth of any given premise. That you find it to be less than intuitive or "uninteresting" is certainly no problem of mine! :)